BIG GUN Bag Charge Ignition


#1

Hi, All…Can anyone out there answer a question Paul Callow and I have…what was used to ignite the vast amounts of powder in the bag charges in say…a 16" Rifle on the big battlewagons in the WW2 era ? Paul states that, on the New Jersey, which he toured recently, inside one of the 16" turrets, there is a display of what appears to be a Krag rifle action and a typical M3 Blank cartridge, which he was told was the “igniter for the big gun”. We Enginemen didn’t get to play with the guns, so come on, Gunners Mates, lets have some answers…Thanks Much !!..Randy


#2

Randy

Believe it or don’t but the biggest of the big were lit by a Lock Combination Primer. The rear of the powder bag had a charge of black powder which acted as an ignitor for the main charge.

The Krag action and blank cartridge? Several things come to mind but none have anything to do with lighting the boomers.

Ray


#3

Ray…I figured they must have used some sort of primer as you show…not having seen it myself, I’m not sure what Paul saw on the NJ. We know there were Krag actions used within the breech of some artillery pieces back in the day, for practice…the sub-caliber rounds…but as far as I know, these were all bulleted rounds. Randy


#4

Yeah Randy, the sub-caliber devices was one of my guesses for the Krag action and blank, but I have never seen such a thing used on shipboard guns. At least I know that we never used them on the guns I worked on. As far as I know they were restricted to the smaller caliber seacoast guns.

And, museum personnel are not always the most knowledgeable.

But I learn something new almost every day and maybe this is it for today.

Ray


#5

Here is a box of Sub-Caliber cartridges M-1925 and a lose round

Fairly sure thats what the Krag action would have been for.


#6

The big question from me is, what was a Krag action and blank cartridge doing as part of a museum display in a 16 inch turret?

Ray


#7

I believe that the rearmost powder bag was colored red to indicate the end to be in contact with the breech, and that it had a layer of black powder as a more easily ignited powder to rapidly spread the ignition flame from the “primer, combination lock” across the base of the entire charge.

I wonder if instead of a Krag, he meant to say a line throwing rifle- the USCG used altered M1903s while the Navy used mainly heavy duty H&R single shot “shotgun” types in .45-70 shoothbore for line throwning.

For what it’s worth, a Krag complete with the USN subcaliber adaptor will be in the Rock Island Auction in Spetember from Frank Seller’s massive collection, in case you need something to turn that nice box into once fired brass…


#8

You are right Ray, that is the big question. I thought to check my grandfather’s US Navy manual “The Bluejackets’ Manual 1940 10th Edition” and it did not mention anything about Sub-Caliber firing. However it had lots and lots of stuff about gunnery. I scanned these images from it, they should be of interest. If you click on the pictures, they should enlarge.

Detail of the firing lock for guns using bag charges. It don’t look like a Krag to me…

Primer types. Forgot to Mention, these are for cased rounds.

Detail of primer. This one is for bag charges.

Both electric and percussion primers were covered in the text of the manual.

I thumbed through a copy of “Coastal Artillery Drill Regulations United States Army 1914” and it covered Sub-Caliber firing extensivly.

Going by this information, the Navy did not use Sub-Caliber rounds, only the Army for the Coastal Artillery.

Maybe the Krag action and blank, were simply “misplaced” by the museum?


#9

“a Krag complete with the USN subcaliber adaptor will be in the Rock Island Auction in Spetember from Frank Seller’s massive collection, in case you need something to turn that nice box into once fired brass.”

Sounds fun, but I think I will keep the box as is. Besides, I much prefer turning 45 ACP and 303 British into once fired brass ;-)


#10

Paul is an experienced fellow and I would accept that he saw what he said. He or someone else in the area needs to go back with a camera.


#11

Just FYI…the first Krag sub-caliber cartridges were made about 1902, an continued off and on until 1928; in 1924 or so, FA ran out of Cole bullets and began using the M1 Ball bullet for sub-caliber loads, hence the M1925 designation…I am looking for two headstamps that I know of, F A 4 11 and F A 6 15. I scanned pages out of my book, and when you turn drawings into JPG’s, they’re not the greatest…


#12

[quote]Paul is an experienced fellow and I would accept that he saw what he said. He or someone else in the area needs to go back with a camera.

[/quote]

Agree with John…would be nice to see this thing…Randy


#13

[quote=“John S.”]I believe that the rearmost powder bag was colored red to indicate the end to be in contact with the breech, and that it had a layer of black powder as a more easily ignited powder to rapidly spread the ignition flame from the “primer, combination lock” across the base of the entire charge.

I wonder if instead of a Krag, he meant to say a line throwing rifle- the USCG used altered M1903s while the Navy used mainly heavy duty H&R single shot “shotgun” types in .45-70 shoothbore for line throwning.[/quote]

John

The black powder layer on the powder bags is actually the ignition charge. It’s called the Ignition Pad. It is seperated from the main charge by a layer of silk and is quilted to keep it from shifting. The primer is just that, a primer. The ignition charge on a 16" bag is a little less than a pound of BP. Each 100 pound bag has an Ignition Pad.

The idea of a Krag line throwing gun occured to me also. But I have never seen one. I have seen Springfields, Trapdoors and H&R shotguns. The trapdoors were most prevelant during WW II and the H&R’s after that.

And those suckers KICK!

Ray


#14

The Navy now uses the M14 with a cup launcher for line throwing. I don


#15

In the last picture posted with the M-14 line throwing. Looks like there is a huge safety violation there. The sailor holding the line canister has no lifejacket on! Even properly packed parachutes foul lines every once in a while.


#16

These folks do not look military to me. Commerical swabs?


#17

I think they might be military. The dark blue clothing under the colored vests and jackets look like U.S. Coast Guard uniforms to me. I think the different colors signify what division they are in aboard ship. I know they wear all different colors on Aircraft Carriers, so assume that is standard aboard other ships, as well. But, just a guess - I was a gravel agitator first, and then a clerk in the Army. This swab-jockey stuff (respectfully said, my dear former Navy friends) is a mystery to me.


#18

all Navy (don’t know about the guys in brown/OD). Taken aboard USS George Washington CVN73. John is right about the colors denoting the type work being done. Red is ordnance, guns etc. I cropped the original picture to highlight the line throwing, here’s the whole thing.


#19

On April 19 , 1989 turret 2 of the battleship Iowa blew up. It was an open breech explosion of a 16 inch gun. Over 40 sailors were killed. The Navy and the Pentagon did extensive investigations to determine the cause. There were various conclusions but no final answer or agreement. Many millions of dollars were spent on these tests.

Like most simple answers to catastrophic events - the truth is hard to accept.

Our analysis done for a Congresswoman concluded that the explosion was most likely caused by an old gunners trick of smoking in the turret and throwing cigarette butts into the breech. (Those black powder pads are dangerous.) The following statement is from official report; "Forensic evidence col-lected in the turret from the remains of the deceased did show that there were lighters and other items not permitted by regulations in the gun house during this gun exercise. "

NO KIDDING.

Have any of you gunners ever smoked in a turret or powder room ?

TAKING ORDNANCE, DESIGNED TO BREAK AND KILL ,FOR GRANTED IS THE GREATEST DANGER FOR THE USERS OF ANY WEAPON SYSTEM- COLLECTORS TOO !

Do you think that Nazi sailors working in a torpedo storage deport would have to be reminded NOT TO SMOKE?

The sign says “NO SMOKING” . NO KIDDING !


#20

[quote=“pbutler”]all Navy (don’t know about the guys in brown/OD). Taken aboard USS George Washington CVN73. John is right about the colors denoting the type work being done. Red is ordnance, guns etc. I cropped the original picture to highlight the line throwing, here’s the whole thing.

[/quote]

A couple of these folks are pretty stout . I thought that the Navy had gleaned out all the fat boys.